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Monday, June 27, 2011

Supreme Court Strikes Down California Ban On Violent Video Games

In a 7 to 2 decision the Supreme Court has struck down a California law which would ban the sale of violent video games to minors saying the law violates the First Amendment.

The decision cannot be called partisan because as the WSJ article states it "scrambled the court's typical ideological lineup."

The 2005 California law prohibits selling or renting such games to minors based on legislative findings that they stimulate "feelings of aggression," reduce "activity in the frontal lobes of the brain" and promote "violent antisocial or aggressive behavior." The law, signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, never took effect because lower courts found it violated free-expression rights.

More at Wall Street Journal.

I have always maintained that games, movies nor music will make a child violent. If a child is taught right from wrong, moral and ethical values from their parents, then no outside source is going to pressure them or create a monster.

Medical and chemical imbalances excluded.

Game makers have a rating system which suggest the age appropriateness of a game and parents have the right and responsibility to decide what their children should and should not be buying, playing, watching or listening to.

Not the state.

There are already areas where the government and laws usurp parental rights and more should not be added. Parents should be responsible for the decisions that affect their minor children in every aspect of life.

Seems the Supreme Court agrees.

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Wired reports that Supreme Court Justice Justice Antonin Scalia writes for the majority:

“Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of ’sexual conduct,’” Scalia wrote. He added that the video game law “abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) think violent videogames are a harmless pastime.”

Six other states and several local governments had adopted similar bans — which provide for a $1,000 fine for sellers. Every court that has heard a challenge to all these laws has struck them down on First Amendment grounds.


Scalia also shot down California's arguments that video games were different enough from books to require a First Amendment exception. "As Judge Posner has observed, all literature is interactive. '[T]he better it is, the more interactive.'" He called California's scientific evidence that violent video games can hurt kids "not compelling."

He denied a state need for a law, given that, he argued parents may not all agree that their kids need protection from violent video games. He cited studies of the current video game ratings systems and said they have been shown effective enough to work. "Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents' control can hardly be a compelling state interest."

More on the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)can be found here.

Supreme Court ruling, PDF found here.